Between Dusk and Dawn…

Some *scribble* *scribble* by Ameera

The Unforgettable

I don’t know why but I suddenly miss my birthplace so much. I was blessed by Allah(swt) with having been born in Saudi Arabia and growing up there. Now, almost four years since I left that country with an “exit only” (no re-entry) stamp on my passport, I feel the pangs of separation more than ever. Sure, I don’t have a resident permit, just a birth certificate to show I was born there… but does that mean I will forget my roots? I don’t think it’s that easy. If it were, I wouldn’t be sitting here four years later, still wishing to go back, even if once.

Just what is it that I love about Saudi Arabia and, by extension, the Middle East? How can I begin to tell you? Can I describe to you, with justice, how it feels to be surrounded by sand and dunes? Take a deep breathe and let the pure desert air flow into you as the soft beams of the late afternoon sun warm you up from within. Open your eyes and look upon the landscape, now dotted with mosques, where the Prophet(pbuh) once walked with his companions. Go forward to tread on the very hill which he climbed upon to call his people to the worship of One God!

Something I miss dearly, even though I wasn’t very practicing at that time, was lying in bed at 2am on Ramadan nights, listening to the sound of Qayam-ul-layl recitation from the neighborhood masajid. Even in regular days, the adhan would be called from so many masajid within a span of 5 min that no one could possibly have an excuse for not knowing Salah timings!

Eid there, during my childhood, was a joy in itself. We’d eagerly turn on the TV to await the sighting of the moon. I didn’t understand Arabic but yeah, anyone could tell the Eid crescent had been sighted when they gave the announcement! Then, out came the henna and we’d watch as Amma applied it on our hands by means of a toothpick. Later at night, she’d prepare some snacks and sweets for the guests who’d visit on Eid. The next day, Abba would go for Eid prayer and return with gifts for us – always a charm! Our Syrian neighbors would send us freshly baked homemade biscuits or we’d get chocolates from the Saudi neighbors.

I miss the food there too. Forget the processed food for now, the pure Khubz, humus, olive oil and cheese were just awesome! And Laban – a drink made from yoghurt! Or even the bread we got from the bakery. It was all so simple, yet so tasty. Eating out at different corner-shops was an adventure as you’d never know what new flavors you would get to enjoy. Once, on the highway between Madinah and Jeddah, we stopped at a place where we ordered rice and chicken for dinner. It turned out it was the local variety of rice – red and plump grains – and it was so delicious! The best part… we had it outside, on a mat spread on the dusty concrete floor, with the dark desert all around – can you imagine that? Awesome, it was!

Being able to pray in a masjid was another joy altogether. It’s very common for women to be able to pray in  masjid there so even if we were out and it was time for Maghrib, no worries – just stop at one of the large mosques and pray in comfort, Alhamdolillah. Although we’ve got the chance to pray in masajid with plush carpets and airconditioning, what I remember really well is the time I prayed in simple masajid. One such time was in Kyber, when we had set out for Hajj. The masjid we stopped near was so small that the ladies section was just the size of a car porch, with barely anything to cover the dusty floor. Again, it took me off to a different era altogether – there was definitely something very intense there.

There’s so much more, I could go on and on. I’ve just scratched the surface of my memory trunk and the real stuff is all inside. I just wish I might be able to go back there, once at least, to see those places again before Allah(swt) wraps up this universe for good. This world is temporary, that’s true, but whatever good we do here is carried on to the next. My roots in Saudi Arabia continue to inspire me whenever I feel down and depressed, or in limbo. Returning to the root, the source of it all… the place where it all started… there is no better vantage point, for me, at least!

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7 responses to “The Unforgettable

  1. muslimfitforlife February 21, 2010 at 1:00 am

    salaams, why was your passport stamped “no re-entry?”

  2. Ameera February 21, 2010 at 1:13 am

    Walaikumassalam!

    That was entirely by choice. You see, when you live in Saudi Arabia as an expatriate, you’re given a resident permit that has to be renewed every two years. Plus, every time you travel out of the country, you need to apply for an “exit and re-entry” stamp that allows you to return to the country after vacations, etc. Once you decide to leave, the permit is cancelled and you leave on an “exit” stamp – that’s what we did when we packed up from Saudi Arabia.

    Of course, “no re-entry” doesn’t mean you can’t visit again on a visit visa or Umrah visa, etc. It was just in relation to our resident permit and living there as expatriates. I didn’t think in my blog post it might come off in a different way! 🙂

  3. Uncarved February 22, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    I may be wrong, but here’s a different reason to why you feel so attracted to the place… I don’t think it is because the place is where Islam took roots. No. It’s because that’s where YOU took roots. That’s where u were born and raised. There is a saying in Pashto, translated as, ‘the place where a kid learns to crawl is his home’..and it makes alot of psychological sense too. The first 10 to 15 years is what forms the foundation of a person…
    Think about it.

  4. Ameera February 22, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    @ Uncarved:

    No, you’re very right there. My time in Saudi Arabia was all about my childhood, growing up there, making friends, experiencing different sights and sounds.

    However, I also know how much the evident “symbols” of Islam affected me. When we’d set out for Umrah, which was a long road trip in our own car, it always struck me how I’d be zipping along a desert highway, along the routes taken by the Prophet(saw).

    There was this town called Tayma and we’d stop at its outskirts at a service station and mosque area where we made our Wudhu, etc. That place is actually at an elevation and it thrilled me to just look down upon the vast expanse of the desert below.

    Another place, we stopped for Maghrib and after it was dark, all you could see was the petrol pump we were parked at. Beyond that, I could dimly make out the outlines of the towering mountains and it immediately made me wonder how life had been 1400 years ago, in that very same desert.

    Yet another time, we were jetting along a flyover in Makkah, going through tunels carved out of the mountains and I wondered again, how this was the same place the Prophet(saw) experienced all that he did! I pictured the setting in which he’d set out towards the cave of Hira. 🙂

    Even sitting in my own home in Tabuk, late at night with the Qur’an in my lap… I’d suddenly feel so connected to the land, as if my environment kept reminding me about my Rabb and the Message He sent us. It was the same feeling I had whenever I entered a masjid in Tabuk or heard the Taraweeh recitation from the neighborhood masjid.

    It’s something intense that I haven’t even been able to define yet. I talk on about deserts and mountains, anything small or big… but it’s really what it represents for me, that makes me love it so much. My sisters don’t get that bit although they grew up in the same place so I’m guessing it’s something about how I feel – and I’m glad to have experienced it. 🙂

    Jazakillah for commenting – your idea actually made me reflect over this and differentiate between loving my birthplace and loving the places that remind me of Islam! 😀

  5. Alisha March 4, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    I am feeling a little nostalgic after reading your touching post. I may not have lived there but still the umra and hajj visits have made such a great impact on me. I truly miss that magical place. Hope Allah gives us another chance to go there insha Allah.

  6. Yousuf Rafi March 21, 2010 at 10:49 am

    I clearly can understand and feel your emotions because my birth place is also Saudia Arabia (Jeddah) and my memorable childhood was from Saudia Arabia…. mashALLAH your way of expressing things is very powerful… one can really feel it… yes this is true… memories of SA are golden ones…. i can never forget food, luxury, freedom of SA… i still miss the taste of Shawarma, pleasant odor of Al-Baik, purity of Laban (we call it lassi in Pakistan), nights with family at beaches, luxurious super markets all over the place and what not…. nights at Makkah and Madina (subhanALLAH no words to express my feelings really)… but the good thing for which i am thankful to ALLAH subhan o tala is that my basis of religion was built up in SA which created a powerful impact on my life… so alhumdulilALLAH have very powerful faith on ALLAH subhan o tala… and yes you really forced me to dig in my previous precious memories once again jazakALLAH for that… keep writing so we can keep reading… may ALLAH bless you lifelong success and happiness in life (Ameen)

  7. Send Gifts Karachi June 20, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    Last month i was there in wadi talbah, can forget those memorable moments..

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